The Daily Telegraph, Number of child criminals soars

Tuesday, 19 August, 2008

THE number of children repeatedly committing crimes has soared by two-thirds since Labour came to power.

Ministry of Justice figures show that since 1997 the number of "persistent young offenders'' has increased from 9,868 to 16,512.

The number of offences they committed has nearly doubled to more than 30,000 a year.

A persistent young offender is defined as someone aged 10-17 who has been sentenced for a recordable offence by any criminal court in Britain three times in three years. The Tories said the Government's attempts to tackle youth crime, largely through anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), had failed.

Rural police forces reported a big rise in repeat offending.

Officers in Cumbria said crimes by persistent young offenders nearly doubled to 240 last year, while the figure almost trebled in Dorset and in Devon and Cornwall to 144 and 356 respectively. Offences ranged from burglary and theft to assault and criminal damage.

The figures were in a parliamentary answer to David Ruffley, the Tory MP.

Nick Herbert, the shadow justice secretary, said the Government had to take the blame for a failure by the courts to bring young offenders to heel.

He said: "Final warnings which aren't final, fines which aren't paid and weak community sentences which aren't properly enforced have led to a hardcore of

young offenders who have no fear of the criminal justice system.''

In May, Home Office figures showed that nearly two-thirds of under-16s given Asbos breach the orders.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said nearly pounds 100 million of extra funding would be spent on measures which would cut youth crime in the short-term and prevent it in the long-term.